Facebook: The Newest Fad in Marketing
Facebook: The Newest Fad in Marketing
What is Facebook?
According to the people behind Facebook, the site is “a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. People use Facebook to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.” http://www.facebook.com/about.php
Basically, Facebook is like Blogger, MySpace, and Flickr all rolled into one. Users log on to Facebook and create profiles of themselves, add friends to their networks, share photos, and join groups. Although MySpace has reigned as king of social networking sites until recently, the general consensus is that it has jumped the shark. Facebook is coming up strong as the coolest new thing in social networking, and is poised to take over MySpace’s crown, despite the fact that it really isn’t all that new. In fact, Facebook’s latest surge in popularity is coming three years after the site was first introduced, and a long time after it had already been considered to have jumped the shark itself. (http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/93805/top_5_reasons_why_myspace_has_jumped.html)
A Little Bit of History:
Facebook was started in February 2004 at Harvard University as a networking site for students. Only a few weeks after it was launched, more than half of the undergraduate students at the school had registered. Within two months, the site was opened up to all of the Ivy League schools in the U.S. Over the next year, Facebook expanded even further to add most other American and Canadian universities. In September 2005, it launched a high school version, which was kept separate from the university networks. By October 2005, Facebook had expanded to include universities from the U.K., Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Since then, it has expanded to countries around the world. (WikiPedia:Facebook)
Up until the middle of 2006, what had distinguished Facebook from its main competitor, MySpace, was that it catered to the college (and later high school) crowd. It required a valid .edu email address in order to register, and thus, only students could use it. But on September 11, 2006, the people behind Facebook announced that they were opening the site up to anyone with a valid email address, which not only put them in a position to take on MySpace head-to-head, but also caused quite a controversy. Some users were outraged that their exclusive site was now going to be open to anyone, and voiced concerns over their privacy. (WikiPedia:Facebook)
It appears that the move to an open network worked out well for Facebook — it basically raised the site up from the ashes and placed it back on the map in a big way. In the months since they opened their doors to the rest of the Internet community, the number of users on Facebook has jumped from around nine million to almost 18 million. This may still be a far cry from the 100 million users that MySpace claims to have (a number which has been highly disputed), but Facebook is growing at an extremely rapid rate and may be poised to take over the MySpace crown (if no other newer, cooler social networking site appears on the scene before then). (http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=2245132130) (http://www.netscape.com/viewstory/2006/09/27/the-real-number-of-myspace-users/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fforevergeek.com%2Farticles%2Fdebunking_the_myspace_myth_of_100_million_users.php&frame=true)
Some Facebook Stats:
-Facebook is now the sixth most trafficked site on the Internet and the biggest photo-sharing site (yes, it’s bigger than Flickr). There are more than one billion photos uploaded onto the site.
-Over half of the users on Facebook log in daily, accounting for 30 billion total page views monthly.
-Facebook accounts for 1% of all time spent on the Internet.
Facebook and Marketing
- Marketing on Facebook seems like a no-brainer if you’re trying to reach the 18–25 demographic (what the Facebook ad sales people refer to as the “tech-savvy youth audience”). Not only can you target your ads to specific universities, employers, or regions, but you can also guarantee yourself a fairly captive audience. Facebook users log on to the site in their free time, usually while procrastinating, sitting in class, or surfing the net. They use the site as a form of entertainment, and are actively looking for new content or distractions. Thus, they seem like a perfect target for advertisers trying to reach that particular audience or to portray the image of being young and hip (see the Apple Students group via the link below for an example of this).
- (If you’re a Facebook member, you can check out one of the sponsored “groups,” the Apple Students group, here: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2204894392)
There are several different ways that Facebook could be used for marketing purposes:
Advertisements -- Probably the most common form of Facebook marketing. Interested parties can purchase
-mass banner ads
-flyers targeted only to a specific university’s users (which can be ordered for as little as $5 and created using a self-service feature on the site)
-ads for featured groups or promotions (these are called “Next Steps” and are inserted on users’ homepages beside their news feeds, with links to a corresponding sponsored “group”—see the Apple Students group link above for an example) or
-ads embedded within the users’ news feeds (at first glance, these appear to be items in the news feed, often “tricking” users into reading them).
Word-of-Mouth -- Recommendations from friends are believed to be one of the most effective forms of advertising. Facebook encourages word-of-mouth marketing by allowing users to fill in a “favourites” section on their personal profiles, giving them sections for books, movies, music, and TV shows. (WikiPedia:Word_of_mouth_marketing)
Notes -- The notes section on Facebook acts almost as a blog. You can write or post anything you want, and it will get sent out to all of your friends’ news feeds. You can even upload your external blog, so that every time you post something new on your blog, it automatically gets attached to your notes section. The notes section is a great way to get a message across, because Facebook users are more likely to read what you have to say than they are a random blogger’s posts, since they know you personally. If you’re a regular note writer, your friends can even subscribe to RSS or Atom feeds for your personal notes.
Shares -- Facebook allows users to share pretty much any form of online media directly through the site. You can post links to other sites, videos, or music. Like the notes feature, every time you post something new, it gets sent out to all of your friends’ news feeds. You can also add a Facebook “bookmarklet” to your web browser’s toolbar, so that any time you visit a website that you want to share with your friends on Facebook, all you have to do is click on the button on your toolbar, and that site will be shared on your profile and added to your friends’ news feeds. If you’re trying to advertise using any sort of digital media (for example, a book trailer), the shares section is a good way to create hype.
Events -- If you are planning on hosting an event or party (for example, a book/magazine launch), and you want to get the word out there, you can create an event on Facebook. When you add an event, you can choose to send out invitations to specific friends, groups, or to your entire contact list. Events you are hosting are listed on your profile, so that anyone browsing your profile can see them. Facebook users can also check out which events their friends are invited to and/or attending, or search for events happening in their areas.
Groups -- Facebook allows both sponsored groups (such as the Apple Students group mentioned above) and user-created groups. People interested in advertising a specific product/company/band can create a group for it, and choose to either restrict access to only a few Facebook users or to allow any Facebook user to join. Group pages have recent news sections for announcements, wall and discussion-board forums where group members can talk about group issues, and photo sections. (For an example of a magazine promoting itself by using a Facebook group, Facebook members can click here: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2240308702)
Although Facebook is a great way for advertisers to reach a young, Internet-savvy demographic right now, it’s pertinent that they act fast in order to ride the wave of its popularity. Like MySpace, Facebook will inevitably be barraged with advertisements and spam, and become bloated with unappealing, poorly designed content. And like MySpace, Facebook will inevitably be deposed from its throne of coolness by a newer, hipper web phenomenon, forcing advertisers to move on in order to save themselves from the shark.
Abram, Carolyn. "Have a taste..." Facebook Blog. 23 February 2007. http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=2245132130. Accessed 3 March 2007.
Barbarian. "Debunking the MySpace Myth of 100 Million Users." ForeverGeek?. 27 September 2006. http://www.netscape.com/viewstory/2006/09/27/the-real-number-of-myspace-users/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fforevergeek.com%2Farticles%2Fdebunking_the_myspace_myth_of_100_million_users.php&frame=true. Accessed 3 March 2007.
The Judge. "Top 5 Reasons Why MySpace Has Jumped the Shark." Associated Content. 8 December 2006. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/93805/top_5_reasons_why_myspace_has_jumped.html. Accessed 3 March 2007.
"About Facebook." Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/about.php. Accessed 3 March 2007.
"Advertise." Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/advertise.php. Accessed 3 March 2007.
"Apple Students." Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2204894392. Accessed 3 March 2007.
"Facebook." Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook. Accessed 3 March 2007.
"Word of Mouth Marketing." Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_of_mouth_marketing. Accessed 3 March 2007.
"TRENZ Magazine." Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2240308702. Accessed 3 March 2007.
So far so good --jmax, Mon, 16 Apr 2007 12:34:46 -0700 reply
Interesting that, despite the incendiary growth in FB's popularity in recent months (I got 4 new friend invites this morning alone), the spam hasn't really started. I've been waiting for it to happen, even strategically inviting it (joining publishers' groups, etc.), but the hedge seems to be the nice balance between "global" and "local" that FB offers. What I mean is that though there may be 19 million people on there, it only looks like a few thousand. When I log in, I see sfu.facebook.com, and a few outlying network linkages. So it doesn't seem like a huge ocean of users, like MySpace does.
So, I have to view the phenomenon as a marketing avenue that has potential, but which still doesn't appear to have been nailed by anyone. Will be interesting to watch, especially as these nicely-targeted user groups expand on there.